The Wigtown Daily: Full Interview with Garry Shaw

28 September 2014
Dr Garry Shaw is talking about his new book, The Egyptian Myths, at 1.30pm today. Here’s what you can look forward to… 


What are you hoping to achieve with your new book?

I wanted to immerse readers in ancient Egyptian mythology, rather than simply describe it from a detached academic standpoint. I wanted them to understand that to the Egyptians, what we regard as mythology - tales of gods and heroes - were explanations for the great questions of life: where did we come from? What is happening around us? Where do we go after death? In this manner, mythology provides a way of understanding and experiencing the world, which today can help us to enter the mindset of the ancient Egyptians; in turn this helps us to better understand their monuments and artefacts. Also, I've written the book in a way that is accessible to readers without prior knowledge of Egyptian religion or mythology, so my hope is that I can reach people who might not usually read books about ancient Egypt, but are curious about different ways of understanding the world.



How did mythology effect the everyday lives of Egyptians?

Egyptian mythology not only explained the origin of the world, but also provided an explanation for natural phenomena visible to the Egyptians each day: the sun was a manifestation of the sun god's power; the blue sky was the underside of the endless ocean of Nun, held back by the force of the goddess Nut; the earth was a manifestation of the god Geb. Whenever the wind touched your face, you were interacting with the god Shu, who served as the atmosphere, separating the earth from the sky. Each of these divine forces had a mythology that explained their role in the world. Even certain materials had mythological origins - myrrh was created from tears falling from Horus' eyes; resin came from fir trees created by blood dripped from Geb's nose. At the same time, in daily life, deities could be called upon to help in times of need: the god Bes was popular in the home, for example, as he protected children. At the same time, other more dangerous forces could enter the home uninvited, having first entering the world of the living from the Duat, the afterlife realm. Such forces could cause disease and nightmares, which had to be fought off with magic -  words of power, amulets, and rituals. To the ancient Egyptians, the world was steeped in mythology.



What are you looking forward to at the festival?

The atmosphere in Wigtown is fantastic; there's a definite buzz of excitement in the air throughout, and it provides a friendly, relaxed atmosphere for me to meet the readers of my books and chat about ancient Egypt, as well as to meet other authors - with so many great writers coming and going, you never know who might be knocking around to bump into! The events are always fantastic too. This year, I'm lucky that I'll be there for Wigtown's Got Talent; I went to this in 2012, expecting to be a spectator, but ended up on stage...



You can hear more from Garry and his adventures in Egyptology at his blog: